Well it has been too long since I last posted and am feeling guilty but guilt is such a wasted emotion I will quickly move on to tell you more about my retreat.
It was about 40 degrees out when we gathered together at 6:30 a.m. sharp to go sit in the woods and do some awareness meditation. It was our job to locate where we sat the prior day and settle in for a good hour of connecting with nature. What does this have to do with kung fu training you may ask?
Good question. The answer is quite a lot actually and on several levels at least from my own perspective. First off, by sitting quietly alone in the woods you start to reconnect with nature. The rhythms, the sounds, the animals slowly emerging and the changing of the light. I love to observe the trees and always find so many analogies to them with people. Some so tall and strong, others with broken branches yet still surviving. Some are dead and yet still manage to stand up and be counted as if they are still alive when inside they are really dead. Some people are like that don’t you think? Standing there really only a shell yet outwardly they appear to be amongst the living? Ok, I’m off on a tangent just a bit…
Anyway, by sitting out there and experiencing the elements, primarily the cold in this case, you begin to realize how powerful nature really is. The cold can kill you. No, I’m not claiming my life was in any danger but you do start realize and appreciate nature’s potential. It can kill you with cold and keep you warm with the sun. Let me tell you how good that sun felt when it finally came out and I stepped out into a clearing an hour later. I just drank in the warmth of the sun and the feeling it had on my face. Now, do you think that would have felt the same to me if I had just stepped out of a heated cabin? No way.
You see you realize how you really cut yourself off from all of this when you spend too much of your time indoors. It makes us soft doesn’t it? Discomfort, dealing with it and truly experiencing it makes us feel not only more alive but it toughens us up. Yes, it’s cold and yes, I’m dealing with it.
You start to see how this might relate to martial arts classes can’t you? When you are on the floor toughing it out – you are feeling something. You are getting past that feeling (hopefully) of “this is too difficult. I can’t, I can’t”. You see, martial arts is just a microcosm of the real world. What you experience in the dojang is really analogous to what goes on in the real world. The dojang is supposed to be a “place of enlightenment”. This is your opportunity to work on yourself. So that when you step outside into the world you are better prepared to deal with challenges. In this case, my “dojang” or “dojo” as some call it, was nature and while sitting there I got just a bit more enlightened and connected to my world.
By sitting there, paying attention to every sight, sound, smell, feeling and even taste you stop tuning out the world and start plugging into it. By actively trying to use all my senses, I could see how helpful this might be in a self defense situation. If I rely not just on what I see or hear but all my senses don’t I increase my changes of noticing something is “wrong” before it happens?
My teacher has said that when they interview victims of crime, they often say they “sensed” something was wrong but ignored the feeling. Awareness training helps you develop the ability to not only detect things that might otherwise go unnoticed but also PAY ATTENTION to them. If you “feel something just isn’t right,” go the other way. Whatever you were going to do just isn’t that important. Pay attention to your surroundings and listen to your gut, not your brain, if something doesn’t seem right. You see the first rule of self defense training is awareness. Get yourself out before you find yourself in a bad situation.
Well, I hope you got something useful out of this post. I’d love to hear from others about their own experiences either sitting in nature or when they encountered a self defense situation or attack where it was preceding by a feeling of foreboding.
Originally published October 9, 2008